Originally printed on the United Roots blog.
United Roots and Gameheads participated in the White House Conference on Inclusive STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) for young people of color on October 28, 2016. The event brought together national leaders that are at the forefront of this work, including Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut, and other visionaries like Charles Bolden, the first Black person to be head of NASA.
The statistics and data for the lack of educational opportunities facing young Black, Latino and American Indian youth are shocking and appalling, and is evidence of the blatant racism in our institutions. The White House conference was a direct response to the urgency to address these issues and was organized by people working directly with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, with leadership from Kalisha Dessources. The event was attended by living legends, including SNCC Civil Rights leader Bob Moses, who have been making the case that a full and balanced education is a human right for all people.
It was transformative for United Roots to be in a group of national leaders that are addressing these issues head on, and to directly interface with Obama’s team of – mostly people of color – activists, community leaders, engineers and scientists. Galen Silvestri, Executive Director of United Roots, and Damon Packwood, Director of Gameheads, were able to share some of the strategies of United Roots, and programs like Gameheads, including trauma informed care as part of a holistic educational model, culturally relevant ways of engaging youth in media & tech, and social entrepreneurship (programs like Youth Impact Hub Oakland) as a catalyst for shifting our economy towards equity and inclusion.
United Roots, in partnership with Urban Peace Movement, launched the DetermiNation program in 2012, with a focus on engaging young Black men from the Oakland area. The DetermiNation program model was created and developed by Markese Bryant from the Fight For Light organization, and is especially tailored to support young men who are struggling to advance in their own life goals (such as employment, career, educational, or other personal goals) and who have been formerly involved in or are currently in close proximity to the “street life”. As part of the program youth participants learn STEM concepts by developing their media production skills at United Roots and producing projects like short films, music and graphic designs to share their personal stories and/or present a vision of what is possible for young men of color in our communities. United Roots has been in partnership with The California Endowment since 2013, and working directly with the Alliance for Boys & Men of Color and Building Healthy Communities initiatives to produce media for youth-led campaigns. In 2015 and 2016 United Roots youth media makers created a collection of media to further the Sons & Brothers initiative, and support the national #MyBrothersKeeper initiative of President Barack Obama’s administration.
United Roots will continue to work towards creating opportunities for our young of color in the Bay Area and beyond. Working collectively across sectors, United Roots projects and campaigns will continue to push these movements forward.